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C & A Carbone, Inc. v. County of Rockland

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 24, 2014

C&A CARBONE, INC., PROVENZA CONTRACTING, INC., and NATIONAL SOLID WASTES MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, NY, C. SCOTT VANDERHOEF, solely in his official capacity as County Executive of the County of Rockland, ROCKLAND COUNTY SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, and CHRISTOPHER P. ST. LAWRENCE, solely in his official capacity as Chairman of the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

This case arises out of a longstanding dispute over waste processing and disposal in the County of Rockland, New York ("Rockland County" or the "County"). It is a dispute that now spans more than two decades and that has already involved a trip to the Supreme Court. See C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383 (1994) (" Carbone I "). In this latest installment, plaintiffs C & A Carbone, Inc. ("Carbone"), Provenza Contracting, Inc. and the National Solid Wastes Management Association (collectively, "Plaintiffs") challenge the constitutionality of Rockland County's 2008 "flow control"[1] ordinance (the "Rockland Law"), which directs all solid waste generated within Rockland County to certain designated processing facilities. The Rockland Law was adopted after the Supreme Court's decision in United Haulers Association, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, 550 U.S. 330 (2007), and was purposefully drafted so as to conform with the Supreme Court's holding.

The Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority (the "Authority"), a public benefit corporation, was tasked with making the designations. It designated eight publicly owned facilities, all of which are located within the County. Plaintiffs allege that, by preventing non-designated facilities from competing for the business and by denying waste producers and garbage haulers the ability to send waste to non-designated facilities, including those located in neighboring states, the County and the Authority have discriminated against-and unduly burdened-interstate commerce.[2] Plaintiffs therefore bring suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Authority, and Authority Chairman Christopher P. St. Lawrence (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of the dormant Commerce Clause. Doc. 90.[3] Vanderhoef and St. Lawrence are named solely in their official capacities. Id.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.[4] Docs. 96, 100. In addition, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the National Association for Information Destruction and the American Forest & Paper Association (the " Amici ") have moved for leave to appear as amici curiae and to submit a brief in support of Plaintiffs' motion. Doc. 116.

For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. The Amici 's motion for leave to appear is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.[5]

In the spring of 2007, the Supreme Court issued its decision in United Haulers, upholding flow control laws that were enacted by Oneida and Herkimer Counties in New York (the "Oneida Law" and the "Herkimer Law") (together, the "Oneida-Herkimer Laws"). By the following week, Defendant St. Lawrence was quoted in local Rockland County media, publicly voicing his desire to bring a similar flow control regime to the County. See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 30.[6] Flow control quickly became the subject of Authority board meetings, and eventually a Flow Control Task Force was established. See Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 55-56, 61; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 55-56, 61. Among the materials reviewed by the Task Force were estimates, prepared by the Authority's consulting engineer, of the impact flow control would have on recycling and disposal rates within the County. See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 149, at RC101611; Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 71-73; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 71-73. The Task Force produced a report in February 2008. Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 74; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 74. A public hearing was held during a May 20 meeting of the County legislature. See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 44, at RC98101. A manager for Plaintiff National Solid Wastes Management Association was among those who spoke in opposition to, and expressed concerns about, the proposed flow control ordinance. See id. The legislature enacted the Rockland Law at the end of that meeting, and Vanderhoef signed it into law the following month. See id. at RC98123; Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 92; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 92.

The Rockland Law mandates that all commercial and residential yard waste, solid waste, construction and demolition debris, scrap metals and recyclables generated within the County be delivered to the facility designated by the Authority. Rockland Law §§ 350-5(A)-(B).[7] The term "designated facility" is defined as follows:

Any publicly owned solid waste facility(ies) and/or any solid waste facility(ies) owned and/or operated by the authority, and designated by the authority for acceptance or disposal of yard waste, solid waste, construction and demolition debris, scrap metals, and/or recyclables, including but not limited to transfer stations, materials recovery facilities, drop-off centers, and resource recovery facilities.

Id. § 350-2. The law applies to all persons and commercial entities within the County, regardless of whether they haul their waste directly or utilize the services of a hauler. Id. §§ 350-5(A)-(B). Violators are subject to civil and administrative penalties. Id. § 350-15.

The Authority designated eights facilities, all of which are publicly owned and located within Rockland County.[8] See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 19; Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 127-28, 131; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 127-28, 131; Defs.' 56.1 Statement (Defs.' MSJ) ¶ 5; Pls.' 56.1 Response (Defs.' MSJ) ¶ 5. Those eight designated facilities are the Clarkstown Transfer Station, the Bowline Transfer Station, the Hillburn Transfer Station, the Ramapo Yard Waste Compost Facility, the Clarkstown Yard Waste Compost Facility, the Clarkstown Concrete & Asphalt Crushing Facility, the Materials Recovery Facility and the French Farms Yard Waste Compost Facility. Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 150; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 150.[9]

For each facility, the Authority entered into a contractual relationship with a private company, [10] pursuant to which the contractor assumed responsibility for certain operational responsibilities at that facility. See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 21, 24, 26, 53, 68, 69, 70.[11] In general, the contractors were selected via a Request For Proposal (RFP) process, though in some instances existing contracts were simply assigned to the Authority at the time it purchased the particular facility. See id. Ex. 48, at 143:22-146:5.

The contractors were typically responsible for general operational and maintenance duties, including receiving and processing waste, making repairs, staffing the facility, and maintaining the books and records. See, e.g., id. Ex. 69 at 16-23 (describing the allocation of operational responsibilities at the Clarkstown Transfer Station). The Authority retained broad oversight rights, including the right to access the facilities to inspect and monitor the contractors' performance, the right to take corrective action if necessary, and the right to approve subcontractors. See, e.g., id. 21-22, 42. The Authority set the "tipping fees"[12] charged to haulers depositing waste at the facilities and staffed the "scale houses" where in- and out-bound tonnage data is recorded. Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 132-33; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶¶ 132-33.

The Authority paid the contractors a service fee, the formula for which was largely based on the amount of waste delivered to or from that facility (depending on the type of facility in question). See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 21, at 111-12; id. Ex. 24, at 37; id. Ex. 26, at 26-27; id. Ex. 53, at 26; id. Ex. 68, at 27-28; id. Ex. 69, at 31; id. Ex. 70, at 20-21. In certain instances, the contractor was also tasked with marketing and selling valuable materials recovered (or produced) at the facility. See, e.g., id. Ex. 21, at 76-80; id. Ex. 26, at 22-26. The contractor would retain some or all of the sales revenue, but the Authority would recapture a percentage of that benefit in the form of an offset against the service fee otherwise owed to the contractor. See, e.g., id. Ex. 21, at 78, 113-115; id. Ex. 26, at 24, 28.

The Rockland County Department of Health ("DOH") was tasked with enforcing the Rockland Law. Rockland Law § 350-4(A). The Authority works closely with the DOH in this regard. Pls.' 56.1 Statement (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 226; Defs.' 56.1 Response (Pls.' MSJ) ¶ 226. Violators have included entities found to be transporting waste to or from Carbone's facility. See Certification of Andrew P. Foster (Pls.' MSJ) Ex. 116.

II. The Amici 's Motion for Leave To Appear

As a preliminary matter, the Court considers-and grants-the Amici 's motion for leave to appear.

"There is no governing standard, rule or statute prescrib[ing] the procedure for obtaining leave to file an amicus brief in the district court.'" Onondaga Indian Nation v. State, No. 97-CV-445, 1997 WL 369389, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. June 25, 1997) (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Gotti, 755 F.Supp. 1157, 1158 (E.D.N.Y. 1991)). Resolution of a motion for leave to file an amicus brief thus lies in the "firm discretion" of the district court. Lehman XS Trust, Series 2006-GP2 v. Greenpoint Mortg. Funding, Inc., No. 12 CIV. 7935 ALC, 2014 WL 265784, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 23, 2014) (citing Jamaica Hosp. Med. Center, Inc. v. United Health Group, Inc., 584 F.Supp.2d 489, 497 (E.D.N.Y. 2008)). In making the determination, courts often rely on principles set out by the Seventh Circuit. See, e.g., id. at *2; Auto. Club of N.Y., Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., No. 11 CIV. 6746 RJH, 2011 WL 5865296, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2011); Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie Cnty. v. Kempthorne, 471 F.Supp.2d 295, 311 (W.D.N.Y. 2007), amended on reconsideration in part, No. 06-CV-0001S, 2007 WL 1200473 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2007). The Seventh Circuit reasons as follows:

An amicus brief should normally be allowed when a party is not represented competently or is not represented at all, when the amicus has an interest in some other case that may be affected by the decision in the present case (though not enough affected to entitle the amicus to intervene and become a party in the present case), or when the amicus has unique information or perspective that can help the court beyond the help that the lawyers for the parties are able to provide. Otherwise, leave to file an amicus curiae brief should be denied.

Ryan v. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n, 125 F.3d 1062, 1063 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). A potential amicus 's partiality is a factor to be considered, but amici need not be completely disinterested in the outcome of the litigation. See Auto. Club, ...


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